Nov 8, 2011

Picasso goes to the movies

I'm continuously looking for opportunities to watch films that we may not necessarily have great access to in DVD or theatrical release, especially older classics from our yesteryear. The Art Gallery of New South Wales is great for this, and I felt I needed to share with you their fantastic free film events.

The gallery regularly program films around their current exhibitions. They have recently opened a huge exhibition of Picasso's works called Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris, and with this is a selection of films from the 20th Century that span alongside Picasso's ground-breaking, revolutionary career. Here are some of my picks:

Bicycle Thieves (1949)
This is one of those seminal films we are taught about in film studies. Directed by Vittoria de Sica, this film is at the front of Italian Neorealism, a film movement characterised by stories about the poor and working classes. The story follows a billposter whose bicycle is stolen as he is on the job. How he relies on this bicycle is close to heartbreaking, as without it he cannot work and support his family. I never had the chance to see at uni (as I was probably sleeping through that 10am film lecture), and I think now is my chance. 

Screening: Wednesday 30 November (2pm, 7:15pm), Sunday 4 December (2pm)

Mr. Hulot's Holiday (1952)
I once saw a documentary on Jacques Tati, and it was ever since then that I was adamant to see what he was all about. Madman Entertainment released many of Tati's classics including Mon Oncle, but at hefty prices. It's not unusual as many foreign films distributed here are simply hard to get, hard to sell and therefore come at a 'hard' price. Tati is one of the great masters of humour, through the use of tightly choreographed comedy skits and sound effects, I have a feeling Mr. Hulot's Holiday will bring me back to the roots of comedy in film.

Screening: Wednesday 14 December (2pm, 7:15pm), Sunday 18 December (2pm)

Breathless (1959)
Ah, finally something I've seen, and love. This is Jean Luc-Godard's first feature film, and has become one of the most influential films in history. You could argue that this was the film that set off the French New Wave, a new breed of filmmaking. It was 'the anti', the movement that completely disregarded the structure of the film narrative, and was the true rebel without a cause in low budget, no rules filmmaking. And it's for this very reason that Breathless is a favourite and must-see for anyone.

Screening: Wednesday 15 February (2pm, 7:15pm), Sunday 19 February (2pm)

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
How I got away with not having seen this film, I don't know and am incredibly embarrassed about it. This is the film that defines all film experiences, I've been told. 2001: A Space Odyssey is Stanley Kubrick's most famous and influential film and again challenges the science-fiction genre. This is said to be a highly transcendental experience for any one, film enthusiast or not. This - is a must.

Screening: Wednesday 21 March (2pm, 7:15pm), Sunday 25 March (2pm)

See the rest of the Picasso goes to the movies film program as part of the exhibition here. Don't forget that these are free screenings!

Nov 4, 2011

The Lomokino

Hipster cousin Ji brought my attention today to this great new camera from LOMO called 'Lomokino'. It basically uses ordinary 35mm film (slide, negative, black/white, infrared, you name it) and shoots short movies that look a little something like this:

I love the fact that it utilises analogue photography and turns it into a form of filmmaking. It's cost-effective and simple enough for the average photographer by the looks of it. Looks like a fantastic tool to experiment with. I'm definitely adding this to my wishlist for the upcoming gift-swapping season!

Have a look at more examples of films shot on the Lomokino, or have a read about the camera itself.

'God's Eye View'

Stumbled across this amazing supercut of shots from films that use what is commonly known as the God's Eye View angle. I highly recommend you take 4 minutes of your day to watch this.

Nov 2, 2011

New look

Procrastination can be productive, and this is proof of that. I spent most of the day with my head down in an editorial for group assessment, but for the latter part of the day I spent some time giving my blog some much needed TLC. 

I've redesigned the blog header after finding some swanky new fonts, and have cleaned out my links section to provide you with some great exits out of my blog. I've also included a section for films that I've made for you to click through to watch.

Hope you find these new changes useful or at least ... enjoyable.

Oct 30, 2011

Big Awards, little me

Our good old friend November has returned, which means we welcome warmer days, sleepless nights and mosquito battles for the next few months. It's painful, and I hate summer. The best part of November, apart from finishing my second-first year at university, is the Asia Pacific Screen Awards Ceremony held in the Gold Coast at the end of the month. Kieran received an invitation to attend, and like last year, we're heading up the coast for yet another 'fancy' night. In other words, it's just an excuse for me to dress up and be in the same room with some big names in the Asia Pacific Screen industry. 

Last year we shared canapes with the producer of Paju and the producer of Jang Hun's new film Frontline (there is an embarrassing photo of me showing just this on the APSA homepage). We're hoping it'll be just as exciting as that this time around, and maybe even better like finally finding the courage to talk to Lee Chang-dong's producer of Secret Sunshine and brother. True story.

Oct 27, 2011

The Discovery of I

I often wonder about the choices I have made that have brought me to this very moment of means that I exist within. Beyond the picture of me sitting here in the living room, finally finding the time to write a meaningful blog post after watching another disgustingly engrossing episode of The Slap. What did I do to be in where I am today, and more curiously important, why did I do the things I did?

I wonder if there was a part of me in the past that knew what my choices would bring me to in the future. Did I know that I would be wanting to work in the film distribution industry? Did I know that I would be going back to university again? Did I secretly know that someday I would go back to university, and therefore not worry about dropping out of the first degree?

A thought has been lingering with me for quite some time, and it questions just this. I was in Melbourne for the Korean Film Festival - working - on my own time and expenses. I wanted to be there for the festival. I spoke to an old friend who I worked with previously, and he was surprised to hear that I was there in Melbourne - working - let alone for the same film festival I volunteered at last year. "But why?" he asked me. He sounded surprised, and I was surprised he would ask. 

"Because I want to." I want to be here, and this festival is something I believe in. This is something I want to do. Why else would I be here?

"You should be doing what you want to do," he said. I assumed he meant "Why are you pursuing someone's else's dream?" This raised the issue of working with your partner, but that is for another blog entry. I was struck with this 'dilemma' upon hearing him say this. Did he think that I was doing this because my partner was too?

NO. I won't beat around the bush with my answer. 

I'm not here because my partner works here, I'm here because I want to be here. I'm here because I want to earn the 'Thank you' you so willingly praise me with day by day. I'm here because I believe in this work. I'm here because I work hard, and do a bloody good job at what I do. 

I've been asking myself this question over the last few days, and have wondered much about this. I don't want to be treated like someone's someone. I want to be treated like I am myself. I am my own person. But is my own person someone who has been shaped by another? Is this what everybody else thinks and sees in me and the things that I do?

Just a thought. I think part of the perks of being 22 is you are a malleable idea - still. You are free to work towards the person you want to be, and if you've made a wrong turn, well, there is still time to get yourself back onto the right track. The ideas that have shaped me, whether they are from studies or from being with someone for so long - I guess the point is to take them and make something of your own from it. I guess that's the right idea.

"The World as Object" by Barthes

There is no sadness and no cruelty in that gaze; it is a gaze without adjectives, it is only, completely, a gaze which neither judges you nor appeals to you; it posits you, implicates you; makes you exist. But this creative gesture is endless; you keep on being born, you are sustained, carried to the end of a movement which is one of infinite origin, source, and which appears in an eternal state of suspension.” 
--- Roland Barthes, “The World as Object” in A Barthes Reader, various translators

Oct 26, 2011

Photo Essay: Malaysia in June.


All of these and more can be found on my Flickr page here.

Oct 12, 2011

The whirlwind that was KOFFIA

One thing this blog has thought me over time is that I hardly keep my promises. That is, when it comes to maintaining this site - I hope. 

June came and went, and I had finally found the time to return home after two years on holiday in July. It was partly because I had first 'lost' my job due to a conflict of interests (it ended well, so not to worry!), and I had returned to university for the second time at the start of the year which in itself brought it's own benefits - ie. lengthy school holidays. The trip was refreshing, and really pulled me back to my roots of being a Malaysian. 

Shortly after that, I returned to Sydney to a job that Kieran managed to pull together for me at his office. Basically, long story short, I had given the next two months of my life to assisting him with running the Korean Film Festival in Australia. In its second year, it was even bigger than before expanding to Melbourne for the first time, which I traveled down for in September. In that time, I'd learned that hard work can often go unrewarded in a work environment like this, and it's all about keeping your chin up when it tries to bring you down. 

Now that it's over, the days I live are shorter, less interesting and simply mediocre. I had missed an incredible amount of classes for work, and now I've been taking the time to bring myself back up to speed with life. I work part-time at Kieran's office as an assistant film programmer for a weekly film night we run, or basically working as his assistant. 

That's about it for now. No promises for when the next entry will be up, but I'm hoping to post some photographs of the last few months up as a visual aid. I'm hoping!

Jun 23, 2011

I'm still alive!

Hello again, my old friend. Out you come from under my bed, I've returned to tell stories of the past three months that have flown by. Many a thing has happened, and I will not divulge into too much detail in this post.

My first semester at UTS has been, I guess some what of a success. Question marks? I have come to realise that a semester really isn't that long. I suppose the benefits of being an Arts student comes into play when I have nil exams.

As I am in the middle of a task (currently helping out at the Korean Cultural Office, which all film/culture-loving Sydneysiders should visit), I won't go into more detail right now. I promise you I will be back to write about more.

For now, I leave you with the trailer of TAKE SHELTER, which I saw at the Sydney Film Festival a few days ago. It's a great film.

Mar 15, 2011

Mar 14, 2011


So I may have taken on more than I can handle. With two 10 hour days at work each week, tutorials and lectures on every other day, and now soccer games every Sunday and training one evening a week about 50 minutes away, life hasn't been more challenging.

Work gets tougher week by week as my manager tightens the leash on me. The further I get through this year, the less sleep I get and the more mistakes I make at work. I have been 'spoken to' at least once every week now that I have started part-time. It's hard every Tuesday and Wednesday morning to want to go to work. Nevertheless, one must work to play, and work to play I must.

The classes this semester at uni have been interesting. I've been finding it quite difficult to get back into the mode of deeper analysis, so much that I can never seem to contribute to class discussions. I'm really enjoying my film studies course at the moment as it's the only class I can sit and contribute to greater detail in. Having noted down all the dates for when assignments are due, I can see that once the fifth week of university begins, which is 3 weeks from now, I will have a far tougher time at juggling work, uni and life.

I am quite upset that I feel like I have been pulled away from my love in film. I haven't had the time to see as many films as I'd like to, and it's the same deal with wanting to make films. When I am free, I am either sleeping or staying fit. When I'm not, I am stuck in this ditch.

Now, I apologise if this post sounds as if it has been written with half a heart. I think my mind is where bed is right now, and I should follow. I hope the next blog post will be more positive than this.

Happy things for you all.

Mar 12, 2011

Korean Cinema: Crossing Borders, Crossing Genres

I decided to take part in the Korean Blogathon, in which a week is dedicated to blogs about Korean film, hosted by cineAWESOME. I wrote about the crossing of genres in contemporary Korean cinema.

You'll also find the article here on the Korean Film Festival in Australia's official blog.

Leave a comment!


It’s late on a Friday night, and I’m feeling up for a movie. I visit my try-hard of a DVD collection for something to keep me company. A couple of giggles to start the weekend? How about a fast-paced action flick to keep me on my toes? Perhaps a deep drama for me to sink my head in for days to come?

It's late on a Friday night, and I can't decide. There are so many feelings I want to fulfill in the next two hours that I begin analysing my emotive preferences. I finally fall on something borrowed - Park Chan-wook's Joint Security Area. Admittedly, the last time I sat down to watch this, I couldn't get past the first 15 minutes of what I felt was a tense, political drama. This time, I manage to get through to the flashbacks present in the film, and I decide within 30 minutes that I love this film.

After searching hard for something to entertain me, I had finally found my answer. What seemed like a dense, political drama eventually turned out to be a heart-warming story of an unlikely friendship between the border guards of the Northern and Southern halves of Korea. The film begins in the present where neutral government officials have come together to investigate a murder that occurred in the demilitarised zone. We soon join Sergeant Lee in a flashback of where it all began - a secret and playful friendship between him and a soldier from the North Korean border guard force, through letters, which later turns into fun, friendly meetings in the North Korean guard post. While the majority of the film feels like a drama especially as it covers the themes of war, political tension and the human condition, the film eventually crosses into the genre of comedy through sarcasm, and playful action as presented through the scenes where the guards are together in harmony.

Here is what is interesting about this. At one end of the spectrum where the 'darker' genres of action, thriller, drama and even horror are present, one would expect little to no presence of the 'lighter' genres such as comedy, which stays on the opposite end of this line.

When you look at Hollywood films, conventionally speaking, a film of the horror genre will stick as closely to the word 'horror' as to not confuse your judgment of the film's genre. While there might be a character in this horror film that makes an ironic statement to reassure us that he will die within the next second (and so it happens), the film remains a horror film and will not cross over to the 'lighter' side. It is the same with anything that is primarily of a genre from the 'lighter' side - a comedy about a group of friends who go to Las Vegas on a 'bachelor's party' cum 'the last night out' never shows any signs of an attempt at crossing the deeper genres of drama, for example. If there were an attempt, it would be the most clichéd and shortest dramatic arc simply to give the film 'an edge'.

Korean Cinema on the other hand, crosses these genres freely and almost excessively. I find this an interesting observation - by crossing genres, a viewer can leave a film feeling confused as to what they have just seen. Upon viewing Kim Yong-hwa's 200 Pound Beauty for the first time, I didn't quite know how to feel about what I had seen. While I had laughed throughout most of the film, I would often stop and wonder, what am I laughing at?

The story is about an unattractively large girl who undergoes intensive plastic surgery so that she can confidently be who she is, and to achieve her dreams of being a pop-singer. The notion of using plastic surgery in order to change one's complete image is often looked down on, and is never encouraged, yet 200 Pound Beauty seems to support this idea to some extent. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the film's comedy and hilarious, colourful characters so much that I had forgotten about the slight encouragement of plastic surgery.

Crossing genres can make a film 200x more engaging and entertaining than a single genre film. A cross-genre film opens up to a much wider audience too - for example, Bong Joon-ho's The Host is clearly a monster film with the thriller and action elements it carries, yet the story centralises on the charming, comedic brilliance of Song Kang-ho's character and his slightly kooky, alternative family who must save their youngest sister from the slimy, slithery clutches of the sewer monster.

While some might not like monster films (let's use Cloverfield as an English title) for example due to the content of how a monster is portrayed (or in other words, those who can't stomach the above), centralising the story around a viewer-friendly, weird family makes it easier for some to sit through such horror... Such 'horror'.

At last year's Korean Film Festival in Australia, I got a chance to see Rough Cut, an action film about a gangster who wants to be an actor, and an actor with the ideals of a gangster. Written by Kim Ki-duk and directed by Hun Jang, this is primarily a film of the action genre, with many fast-paced action scenes during a film shoot within the film, and otherwise. The film predominantly covers the themes of gang culture, ultra-violence and corruption in Korean society, which I find quite common in contemporary Korean cinema. However, although the film focuses on these serious themes, to the average viewer there is a surprising amount of comedy present all throughout. The best thing about the use of comedy throughout the film is that it does not distract you from the essence of the story, and that the film really is a violent, action film with a 15 minute bloody, fist battle in mud to an extreme, suggestive rape scene.

I never liked the excessive crossing of genres when I was first introduced to Korean films, but I feel that it has finally grown on me. No longer do I have to worry over two vastly different films in genre. No longer will I have to waste (close to) hours on deciding on whether I feel like a depressing, art-house drama film or a romantic, black comedy - or whether I feel like a laugh or a cry over a movie. Contemporary Korean cinema has proven to us that the crossing of genres is possible, and plausible. And that including comedy in a violent, gangster film is not a clichéd or a lame attempt at 'great entertainment'. It is an experience worthwhile, and although it may seem strange with such an oppositional mixture of genres at times, it ultimately fulfills the requirements of an entertaining film.

Raelene Loong is a Marketing Assistant for KOFFIA, as well as a Video-On-Demand scheduler and independent filmmaker. Her personal film blog is Cutting Squares. Follow her on Twitter @suupatrout.

Feb 8, 2011

Back to the books

Are you in the mood for a surprise today?

Well, upon accepting my offer to study at AFTRS, I received a letter in the mail stating I had been accepted into a university course I applied last year - before I started working, and before I applied to AFTRS. I had applied for two different courses at the University of Technology, Sydney - one a Bachelor of Arts in Communication to major in Media Arts and Production, and the other is the same degree but with a major in Information and Media. I was accepted into the Media Arts and Production major and degree.

This came as a HUGE surprise. Firstly, I had completely forgotten about this application and shrugged it off once I started working. Secondly, I simply wasn't expecting to get in! I wasn't even expecting to get into the two AFTRS courses I applied for, which is still a surprise to this day.

At the end of the day, I took the university offer and with a heavy heart, canceled my enrollment in the Graduate Certificate in Screen Culture at AFTRS. I figured it was time I went back to uni to finish what I set out to do 3 years ago, and to feel better about dropping out of university in the first place some year and a half ago. I feel ready, funnily enough. And not the kind of ready I felt when I had just finished school. I feel the kind of ready that gives me the power to take on new adventures and seek new heights.

In short, I feel great.

I know I'll go back to AFTRS one fine day when I am done with uni. Besides, I think a post-graduate course will be more useful to me once I've learned to live a little more than I already have.

On a side note, I was lucky enough to keep my job after accepting the offer at uni. Once uni starts, I drop down to part-time and will work half the hours I work FT. The total amount a week being 20 hours, squeezed into two, long 10 hour days a week inbetween my time at uni.

Truth be told, nothing comes easy anymore. Life, a challenge it is!

Feb 3, 2011

Blue Valentine: the room of desire, desperation and no return

I found this neat photograph of Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance and lead Michelle Williams on set during the production. It was this room where Dean, played by Ryan Gosling brings his wife Cindy (Michelle Williams) to rekindle their relationship, after it is clear that it's breaking apart at the very seams.

They enter a love hotel, and Dean picks the 'Future Room', a neon-lit, tight space with no windows, including your average tacky rotating bed and faux fur pillows. Nothing is true for the couple any more, and nothing can be reversed. Their relationship is in shambles, as they crawl and beg for freedom - of each other, and freedom of the present. The 'Future Room' does nothing, but take them deeper into the land of no return. Time travel does not exist, and if it did, everything would be right. What destroys us, and where do relationships go to perish? Where does it hurt?

Jan 18, 2011

Visualising Stories Through Music

I love visualising stories and ideas from music. Apart from film being a main point for inspiration in my creative work, I find a lot of my ideas stem from music or surrounding sounds. Stories of my past and future selves put to music I hear, or put to not-so-familiar sounds connected to distant memories and felt emotions.

This Broken Social Scene track began playing while I was pretending to work. (I'm at my desk now trying to blog this as discretely as possible)

This track reminds me. I find myself travelling, going back home for the summer holidays in the days when I was still carefree. School. Coming off the plane after an 8 hour flight, it's always the night. I'm stuck in a car for an hour between the airport and home. The highways are empty, shrouded in orange darkness (lit up by street lamps all along the way). The occasional car speeds by, and slows down. There are no traffic lights on this one way highway, everyone is free to go as they like. Having exhausted myself in telling what few stories I have between the last time I spoke to my mum, and now, I watch the sleepy world outside my window (covered with condensation). We start to move like stretched out lights, leaving traces of our existence behind. Time speeds up, but slows down enough to capture this sight. Interweaving highways and roads that lead to anywhere you want. It takes me home.

What does this song remind you of? Where does it take you?

Jan 16, 2011

Sonnet 29, Shakespeare (and a New Year greeting)

Hey, happy new year all.

I admit, I have been a terrible host and for that I apologise! I have been busily trying to catch up with life as it has made it through to 2011. Damn it, the sneaky new year went on to start without even telling me. I have been struggling at work, and to see the lightness in film and creativity on most days, so I must ask you to be patient with me till I find some resourceful information or ideas to spread.

I do, however, begin 'school' at AFTRS (I've just enrolled in the Grad Certificate in Screen Culture, picked it over Directing. Explain later) in just over a month's time, which should get me back into my right frame of mind. I'm very much looking forward to it!

In the meanwhile, I shall leave you with this beautiful video - featuring David Hyde Pierce (from Frasier) reading Shakespeare's Sonnet 29. Inspiring, devastating, a beautiful kind of disaster.

Stay happy, everyone.